Local rescues choking man at Purvis eatery

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Mickey James of Petal doesn’t think he really did anything special recently when he and a couple of friends were going out to eat at Fred Martin’s buffet in Purvis.

Certainly, he would never use the word “hero” to describe what he did. He just reacted on instinct and helped someone. Actually, he saved a man’s life.

James, friend Howell Purvis and neighbor Larry Townsend were walking into the eating establishment, prepared to enjoy lunch. As they entered the restaurant, Martin Guerrero – a tall, large Hispanic man – was trying to get outside in a hurry. James noticed something strange about the man.

“We just happened to be walking in the door and this big old fellow who looked kinda Hispanic – he was a big fellow, I mean huge – he was bent over and it looked like his lips were turning blue,” James said. “He looked at me and pointed to his throat. Right then, I knew what was going on. I just got him and choked a big old piece of meat out of his throat. Mr. Purvis carried on over that and the ladies in the restaurant carried on. And I said, ‘It’s not a big thing; I was trained in this.’”

James performed the Heimlich maneuver, a technique of abdominal thrusts for stopping choking. The maneuver has been in practice since 1974 when an American doctor discovered it.

James said he just moved in instinct when he saw Guerrero was choking.

“I worked for an oil company and I was one of the first first-responders that they ever had,” he said, adding that his medical training sent him into action. To me, I just blew it off.”

But Purvis, who had been a Navy aviator for 10 years and a Secret Service agent for 20 years under six presidents, had a different take on the event, James said.

“Mr. Purvis thinks it’s a big thing, but I was trained in it,” he said. “When it happened, he looked at me and said, ‘Mickey James, you saved a life today.’ I said, ‘I guess I had a reason for getting here this morning. It’s not really a big thing.’ He said, ‘It’s a really big thing.’”

Purvis said the whir of activity surrounding the event was not expected.

“You don’t see that very often,” he said. “He was bent over growling. A piece of roast beef had apparently gotten stuck in his throat. It was about three inches long and almost as big a round.”

James said Guerrero had apparently panicked and started to go out the door looking for help.

“You know the worst thing you can do when you’re having a problem is try to go outside,” he said. “There’s no help outside.”

Guerrero thanked James after he was able to gain his senses, James said.

“The guy was a really nice guy,” he said. “He came back and shook my hand after he recovered. He actually bought dinner for all three of us.”

After everything got back to normal for James that night, he reflected on the activities of the day.

“I thought about it later on that evening,” he said. “I live by myself because my wife passed away. I said, ‘Wow, that is a good feeling.’ I’m kind proud of my old self.”